I haven’t heard much Brian Eno music, and yet somehow I’ve heard a lot of it. I guess I should clarify that I haven’t heard much that he’s done on his own, under his own name, but plenty that he’s done with U2 under their name, and under both of their names. Clearly he has been very influential in the U2 world, and U2 history, but when I hear his own stuff I wonder how that is possible. Was his influence truly good, or could it possibly have been not so good? Or even could it have changed over time?
Eno is a big fan of and player in ambient music, and it seems to me that he directs the projects he is involved in in that direction. Now, the first U2 work, The Unforgettable Fire, is quite ambient and is a masterpiece. He worked on The Joshua Tree, a few others in the 1990s, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Most of those he worked with Daniel Lanois, whom I think I credit the most for the U2 sound (after the band themselves). It just seems to me that if they’re both together the result is good, but if Eno doesn’t have Lanois working with him the result isn’t so good. The classic example is Passengers, which was self-indulgent to the point of irritation.
So all this leads up to Fez, which is the most Eno-like song on No Line On The Horizon. It doesn’t fit my narrative above, because Lanois worked on the album too, but it does fit the Eno theme. Slow, contemplative, boring. Changing pace here and there. Not “real” - reportedly Eno insisted that Larry use an electronic drum kit instead of a real one, which essentially took the whole impact of Larry out of the album.
Oddly enough, I didn’t even realize that “Fez - Being Born” is actually two songs, or at least were intended to be two. It wasn’t until I was re-reading the stuff in the No Line On The Horizon box that I got to Edge’s point about the one song finishing and the other starting, and then talking about how they were put together. They do sound at least somewhat similar, I suppose, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Fez is easily the worst song on the album, and for that matter the two next worst songs are quite similar in style.
The Fez part is the start, the first minute or so (with a little Get On Your Boots thrown in, who knows why), all electronic and drab and dreamy. Then it booms out a little, into Being Born, and you start getting some action, although the base sound is still there. You get some weak lyrics and a bunch of wailing by Bono, which doesn’t help matters. I hear his thing about telling a story from someone’s perspective, but it doesn’t work very well. Maybe it’s because the music is a distraction. It just keeps drifting in and out. Ambient, like I said. And the end kind of falls away into nothing.
So yeah, I struggle to reconcile the bad stuff Eno has done with the good.
My rating for Fez - Being Born: 2 / 10